Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Year Older

I turn 36 today.
Well, I might as well come out with it, now that I have passed the 35th mark.
In light of a frenetic lifestyle (and FB distraction), I haven't been writing for a long while and though I sorely miss this outlet, I am not comfortable jotting my thoughts in a jumble-up manner.
I will try to make this as short and cohesive as possible since my penchant for wordiness tends to get the best of me.

It's been a fantastic year; thank you God for all Your blessings.
While there had been some bumps and troughs in the year, I'd managed to confront or overcome them with the help of loved ones. Although they can offer a word of advice (or more) like a broken record, it was up to me to follow through with an action plan and move along with my life.

It was a year that I found the meaning of blissful solitude. I began to love my own company. I'm not much of a loner, as I feel engulfed with a sense of panic when left alone with my own thoughts. I blame it on all the years abroad being on my own and having to fend for myself. Paradoxically, even though I love being around people, I become overwhelmed when group dynamics don't work out in the way I would imagine it to be. The idealist in me conjures up easy and fast friendships without the other person's personal entanglements getting in the way of fun. How selfish, foolish and naive I can be at 35.

It dawned on me on one of my solitary jaunts that I think better and clearly when I'm alone. The rudimentary truths behind my funk seem to sink in and voluntarily dissipate through a favourite medium : coffee. I always feel much better after a cuppa, but combined with a newfound sense of tranquility I am over the top!

On the home front, I am discovering my domestic kitchen goddess as I whip up recipes which have previously been out of reach in terms of culinary persuasion. In other words, I am too lazy to dabble in the art of food preparation. Nowadays, I won't think twice of cutting and blitzing those onions if I find the urge to eat something I want. Before, I would settle for second rate substitutes. I might try a hand at making oven-bound desserts from scratch next. I don't think my present cekodok pisang and bubur kacang count.

As far as my relationships with the closest and dearest go, there were inevitable ups and downs that I must let go off and learn to forgive. Myself mostly. Only then can I rebuild the bridges and take away a lesson from the experience.

With Sadia entering the domain of school life, I also went through the initial uneasy transition that came with her absence. At first, I felt guilty for enjoying the freedom to be had from the time she stayed in school. Thereafter, it had turned into a routine which I looked forward to. It provides me with ample time to spruce up the house and attend to other household duties. Try as I might to spend more time with her off-school, the demands of a tot unfortunately trump those of a preschooler. I do long for a one-on-one quality time with my daughter without that harried and hurried feeling of multi-tasking. One that does not necessarily confine to the bedroom when the lights are dim for reading time.

In the anamcara department, I grappled with the other half's increasing and tiresome workload after we moved to Dubai as a family. Yet, our long-drawn tradition of mall haunting continued apace in this mall nation of UAE. Suffice to say, six years of marriage have mellowed our expectations and accurately predicted the mood swings involved.

Impatience and temper are two negative traits which took centrestage the previous year, what with the nomadic life which I led following the other half's abrupt placement to Dubai. Obviously, I am not proud nor pleased with my slow improvements on this prickly issue of character detoxing. Thus, it is definitely an achievement worth reaching for in my old age where hereditary high blood pressure reigns supreme.

Irreversible grey hairs notwithstanding, here's to 36 and a lifetime of adventures that it will bring.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Settling down

(Originally written on Facebook on September 22nd, 2010)

Don't get me wrong. I love Malaysia. But I was more than relieved to leave after the frenetic two-week Eid vacation there.

I have come to that age where familiarity and routine are the order of the day. Probably having two small kids has shifted my perspective on the need for wanderlust.

But the truth is Dubai has become a home that I love. Finally I feel settled.

Ever since the rumours had hovered last December on my husband's imminent post for the Iraqi project, I was beleaguered by a sense of displacement in our new Denai Alam home. We could not really spruce up the place now that we came to know this big piece of news. And we just moved into this new house the previous month of November! What a drag!

Then in January, it was confirmed that he'd be posted overseas. Our refurbishment and furniture plans had to be shelved. Although, at times, we ignored the call for practicality and installed some fixtures to make our Denai place more live-in.

March quickly came and he was off to Dubai to set up the company's office there. At first, it would be for a week. Thereon, it stretched to two weeks. At last, he was requested to stay for a month!

That was when I felt that our lives were in limbo. I had to stay at my parents' in Kota Damansara the whole duration of his absence, due to safety and baby reasons.

I was more stressed here, even with the help of my mom and occasional help from my eldest sister during the weekend. I felt that I was living out of my suitcase. I missed the idea of a home. The kids, especially Sadia, missed it too, but she was more than pleased to be close to her cousins during the weekends.

Hubby then came back after a month and had to leave again in ten days' time for a fortnight worth of work in Dubai.

Back to the roller-coaster feeling of living nomadic again after he left. Granted, I was grateful for all the help I got. I don't know how I'd cope without this support system.

At first, I was sad to leave behind the support system that I'd grown so accustomed to in that one-and-half months' time. Later, as I acclimatized to the new place and established a routine, I was more at ease with life in a foreign land. My family is here.

Finally, after six months of ambiguity, I feel at home. A place where I belong. A sanctuary; my inner sanctum.

So it's good to be home after spending the last few days of Ramadan and subsequently Eid in Malaysia. The kids quickly ran to their favourite toys and I switched on my favourite toy - the Apple :)

Familiarity indeed breeds contentment.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Birth : (Hi(s)tory)

Caution: Due to some graphical content, readers' discretion is advised.

It started with a name.

Like most things conceptualized, a sketch on a piece of paper, a rough draft, we first came out with a name.

It was in late 2005 that the name 'came up', when we had yet to know the gender of our firstborn. Like the name of the female name we had chosen, we loved it straightaway. When we got a girl, the name was momentarily forgotten, tucked somewhere in the deep recesses of our mind and ready to be plucked out at a moment's notice.

And the notice arrived. Towards the end of 2008, I found out that I was expecting again. It was a news most welcome. I had longed for and wanted a second child so that Sadia would have a sibling to play with. Expectedly, I was thankful to God that my prayers were answered.

And quite unexpectedly, the second pregnancy was more tiresome compared to the first one as I had to tend to a demanding and clingy toddler, upkeep an apartment as well as bear with the hormonal swings that accompanied it. In addition, my other half's constant travels and heavy workload wreaked further havoc on my out-of-whack system.

Those issues aside, we were more than elated when the good doctor confirmed and informed us of the baby's gender. As he put it, the conspicuous image on the ultrasound was unmistakable. It's a boy! In the back of my head, I had illogically thought we would get another girl going by the pattern wherein my twin sister had conceived two boys. However, Allah knows best and I feel blessed by His bounties.

So the chosen male name resurfaced like a beautiful spring day; ready to immerse in its radiance and splendour. Yet, despite our exuberance, I admit we did hit a snag in committing to the name. We discovered the name had already been used for the son of someone whom we would rather not be associated with. Well, that's a tad dramatic. Let's just say, the person is plain annoying.

We even went the length of finding another name, rifling through pages and pages of Name Books just for the sake of not wanting to be accused of purportedly copying the name of this person's kid. Yes, we were that determined. Later on - towards the end of my third trimester - we decided that enough is enough and we would stay with the name no matter what the consequences. On hindsight, it was foolish to belabour this fateful coincidence and to solely base our name decision on a person whom we didn't know much or care about. In fact, the person only lives at the periphery of our world and by that definition itself, is of no consequence to us at all! Moreover, I believe our reservation also lies in the fact that we stubbornly want the name to be an original, at least in our 'Malaysian' circle. Well, at least that's what I felt.

Before details of the important event fade from my memory, let me do the honours of sharing them with my few readers. I still remember the few days leading to the BIG BANG. It was my husband's birthday on the 10th and he was swamped at work in the past few weeks that he would come back home tired and pensive (well, he's usually pensive near to his birthday, but that's another story).

We took a taxi to join him in KLCC for his birthday celebration, but our festive mood turned sour with Sadia being uncooperative and misbehaving throughout the rest of the evening. In retrospect, Sadia's uncharacteristic behaviour seemed to portend of things to come. The dampener therefore cut our plan short with hubby wanting to shelf the birthday treat until the weekend. Little did he know what the weekend had in offering for him! For all of us!

The next day, Thursday, hubby attended and headed some important work presentations for which Sadia and I only managed to see him later at night. On Friday, my twin sister wanted to see me for tea after work since she needed a picker-upper and promised to treat me for it. This was once in a blue moon offer I couldn't refuse! We met on the now defunct Dome cafe on the first floor of KLCC. I remember what I had ordered - my all-time favourite Honeycomb Goldrush Ice-Blended - the only caffeine kick availed to me for the day. Luckily, Sadia's mood had improved and hubby came out from work early as he would be working on the weekend to wrap up a deadline. Or so he thought.

We dropped by to get dinner somewhere in Ampang Point area, and had an interesting, Seinfeld-like conversation revolving on 'ayam katik' (spring chicken) for some strange, inexplicable reason. We didn't know what an 'ayam katik' alludes to, and I fondly recall that, in order to sate my curiosity, I even texted my mother to ask for her definition late that night!

As a normal occurrence late in the third trimester, my late night toilet trips were exceptionally frequent - to say the least. I woke up that very night - ayam katik conundrum still reeling in my head - and headed towards the throne. When I got back to the bedroom in my groggy state, I was surprised to feel that water trickling down both sides of my inner thigh. Although I was perplexed to see the water coming down - pure or otherwise - sleep trumped the concern and I dozed back in that permanent awkward position.

Around 6:30 or so, I woke up again as I was alarmed by my relatively wet condition in bed. Bed-wetting did I? My biggest fear was confirmed as I tried to ascertain if it was indeed amniotic fluid (and not urine) that pooled the bedsheet. I hastily stirred my husband from his much-needed sleep and told him what had taken place during the course of the night.

Since we weren't wholly certain whether it was my water that had broken or something else altogether, we decided to go to the hospital. Our doubt arose from the fact that my amniotic sac was artificially ruptured in my first pregnancy. However, in the back of our mind, we were sure that this was IT. So sure we were that my hubby wanted to drop by the office that same Saturday morning before going to the hospital as he had to delegate some important work to others on an important project deadline.

Before we drove there though, I called my mother asking for her opinion on my 'wet' situation and she implored me to go to the hospital ASAP. So she and my siblings were so alarmed that I was still puttering about KLCC in the wee hours of Saturday morning, waiting for my other half who must made sure everything ran smoothly in his absence from work!

And when the fluid that ran the side of my legs seemed to increase over time while Sadia and I sat in La Cucur, I had to call him to hurry up. I felt uncomfortable sitting down and panicked that the baby's health would be in jeopardy withe each ensuing trickle.

We arrived in the hospital and went straight to the labour ward on the 3rd floor. I gave the nurses on duty my Pre-Registration Labour Card and they took my weight. Ironically enough, the same nurse that assisted in Sadia's birth was on duty and she recalled who we were! I then changed into the sterile hospital gown before the nurse wired me to an EFM (Electronic Fetal Monitor).

Little Sadia became alarmed looking at my bulging stomach being strapped to a series of elastic belts and was almost reduced to tears that my husband decided that it would be best for all of us that he distracted her someplace else. At first he brought her downstairs to roam about, but as the wait grew longer, they went to the nearby GE Mall. Later on, hubby brought her home for a bath and even put her down for one of her rare naps.

We were dreadfully worried about Sadia when the time would come for hubby to be with me during the crucial stage of labour. Towards the end of my third trimester, we went over the possible alternatives for Sadia when the final stage of labour would commence. Staying at my parents' under the care of my mother and eldest sister whose two small daughters are close with Sadia was one option. Or praying hard that my delivery date would coincide with my in-laws' expected arrival in town. As the second option failed to materialize, we were nonetheless concerned with the first option back then as Sadia was not close to both adults with whom we planned to leave her.

Predictably, like a homing beacon, she could detect Yayah's plan of leave and would cling to his side at all times when they finally made the move to deposit her at my parents' place later that evening. She even refused to engage in the foolproof scheme of baking cookies with her two cousins, my sister and my mother.

As the other half had to entertain and take care of Sadia for most parts of the day, I was left to my own devices in the labour ward. At first, it felt strange being alone with my morbid thoughts and anxieties, as opposed to venting them out to my husband by my bedside. Thankfully, I brought along the laptop which kept me occupied throughout the long, arduous wait to that first set of contractions.

My mother also came to accompany me for a bit while my husband ran his little errands with Sadia. To my great amusement, my mom fell fast asleep on the plush sofa whereas I could not keep still in that confined space of a room. Poor Ma, she must be tired after yesterday's dialysis session. Much to my delight, my twin sister also dropped by with her kids and maid to see how I was faring.

On the medical front, my ob-gyn came to inspect me mid-morning after I was left alone with the EFM whirring soothingly in the background. Following the first check-up, he instructed the ward nurse on duty to give me the enema to expedite the progress of my labour. As I had fervently expressed the desire for a childbirth as natural as possible in a previous ob-gyn appointment, my good doctor had respectfully worked around that parameter.

If people were to ask me what was the most painful and unbearable part of my second delivery, I would have to say the 'invasive', physical examination - something that I'd leave to the readers' imagination. I dreaded, cringed and writhed in pain every time the doctor or the midwife came to check the opening.

When my labour progress left much to be desired, the ob-gyn advised me on introducing oxytocin intravenously to help things move along. As I was getting exhausted with the long wait, I duly and unequivocally agreed. I still remember the first prick to find my vein was unsuccessful and left some bruising. The nurse on duty was relatively new, and another senior nurse assisted her instead.

The strong contractions started to kick in from thereon, causing me to consider the option of taking epidural before the pain became worse. I even consulted with my hubby over the phone who was getting ready to leave for my parents' at the time. After less than half an hour mulling over the slight chance of improvement in my pain threshold this time around, like a desperate woman, I hastily asked for the anaesthetist on duty to administer the God-sent pain reliever.

Since I was alone throughout most of the 'latent' labour period, I relied on the nurses on duty for moral support when the anaesthetist punctured a hole at the back of my spine. I remember gripping tightly the scrawny hand of one young Chinese nurse as the procedure took place, while the more senior Malay nurse reassured me that everything was alright. With the epidural and its top-up mechansim nestled comfortably behind me, I began to feel very tired. It had been a grueling day and the ordeal was far from over.

I also recall trying to arrange for Sadia's sleeping arrangement in the hospital (read: extra bed) upon learning that she would not, in a million years, stay at my parents on her own accord. Thatexperience, on hindsight, would be too traumatic for her.

That night, all of us (my mother included) decided she would stay with us in the recovery cum maternity ward. The only snag was that a room would be available at a much later time as it was apparently a peak time for giving birth and therefore a high rate of room occupancy.

Since my husband would have to leave Sadia to be by my side, my mom, my eldest sister and her four children (except the eldest boy) all came down from Kota Damansara with him and Sadia. They would be in charge of keeping Sadia distracted and entertained.

Even after they arrived at the hospital, the room was not yet at our disposal much to my disappointment. Later, at my appeal for the nurse's intervention, they managed to secure a room at the eleventh hour for Sadia and the others to rest and play in. I was worried she would look for her dad, but they succeeded in diverting her attention through games and activities as well as plied her with favourite snacks.

By midnight, I strongly felt the urge to 'relieve' the weight that I had been carrying for the last nine months. Just in the nick of time, my husband came to be by my side and hold firmly my right hand. The ob-gyn entered the room in that familiar yellow galoshes, looking very somber and comical at the same time, while my 'Muhibbah' group of nurses prepped the place to aid me in parturition. I remember all of them encouraging me to push when the strong contractions came as indicated by the EFM. Or put it another way, when the compulsion to 'bear down' was intense.

Three to four pushes later, our baby boy emerged from the veritable birth canal and was immediately handed to me. We cooed at him and briefly exchanged our greetings. He then cried for a while when the nurses rushed to clean and examine him for the Apgar scoring. All bundled up, he returned to me with a blank stare as if trying to make sense of his new surrounding. Welcome to the world my son, we love you very much.

My husband gently intoned the azan into Saeif's tiny ears, while the doctor commenced on the third stage of labour and finally stitched me up which, for some strange reason, I was able to feel a slight twinge or two. The epidural must be slowly wearing off from my system, I reckon. And true to form, I developed a terrible itch all over my body as soon as I was drained out of epidural.

Thankfully, Saeif had already been ferried out to the nursery at this time. The itch persisted even after the nurses rubbed my whole body down with several heated hospital-strength wet wipes and gave me a couple of pills to relieve the allergic symptoms.

The scratching urge continued right into the maternity ward where I met my Sadia again since this morning. Funnily, she was wide-eyed to see my 'deflated' tummy. Before I got the chance to tell her what went down (pun intended), the baby was ushered into the room for his inaugural feeding. So Sadia was hit with another surprise - a newcomer to the family - and she gingerly touched the infant to make sure that he was real. As if all these were too surreal for her. I could tell she was not sure how to respond, but a tinge of jealousy overcame her when I cuddled and nursed the baby. She wanted to snuggle next to me as well and cried in protest when she was taken away.

Undoubtedly, Saeif was an addition that all of us needed to get used to. Now that he is one year old, he has grown leaps and bounds - physically, emotionally and behaviorally. His signature sheepish smile always boosts your mood and that shy, boyish act makes you instantly forget his naughty antics (especially when he flashes that smile along with it).

The gradual adjustment period played a pivotal role in understanding his developing personality, and embracing him into the familial equation. He has become the linchpin that glues our family closer. Saeif, you melt my heart every time you crack that cheeky, knowing smile, and I feel blessed by your continuing presence in our lives.

Friday, June 11, 2010


June 1997

The night's stillness is my steady companion,
As I lay awake to pen this whimsical thought,
For an occasion so special I shall never forget.

That sincere smile etched in my wretched mind,
Not a trace of veneer in this transit place,
A 'Sunny' California where I felt desolate.

A connection was easy from the first time we spoke,
With him around I could bring my guard down,
Along with my idiotic thoughts and childish sounds.

Friends cheered us on for an expected union,
An adolescent rush yet reined in my emotions,
With a heart at stake I proceeded with caution.

The college years whizzed by like the wind,
Our special bond had evolved and matured,
Is the next logical step in store for sure?

Alas, maturity and a string of sticky issues,
Came to the fore when the L-word prevailed,
Could a thing so good take the wind out of our sails?

When it is yours, it will come back to you,
A wise adage that manifested in the end,
Obstacles aside, we gave us a second chance.

Beautiful wedding and five years on,
How inspiring it is to grow old with you,
To learn from mistakes and ask forgiveness too.

Have a Happy Birthday to my soulmate,
My other half and my partner in crime ;) ,
Here's to more celebrations in our lifetime.

May 2010